Tag Archives: Green Belt

CPBC councillors in no Hurry, despite Canvey Brown field Land being up for Grabs!

The Castle Point Local Plan wheels of Motion turn Notoriously Slowly.
It was apparent from the debate during full council that nothing had progressed following cabinets “noting” of the requirement to compile a List of Brown field land Register, Part 2 of which would be granted Planning in Principle to support Housing supply within the Local Plan.

Cabinet Councillors spoke of forming a committee to consider appropriate land to be included in the Brown field Register and a similar debate during full council indicated no appointments made, nor meetings planned, in the meantime following the cabinet’s decision! With August arriving few meetings are usually scheduled due to holidays.
This Brownfield register may be seen as the mainland residents Green Belt life saver, as many brown field sites have been rumoured to have already been identified on Canvey Island.

Paddocks

As with all cpbc committees the balance of power rests with the mainland councillors so we can expect the development land identified to receive a Planning Inspector’s response to raise concerns on “the consequences of this on the distribution of growth across the Borough!”

However there is an opportunity for CITC to partake

“Notification for parish councils and neighbourhood forums of proposal to enter land in Part 2 of the Brownfield register; 

Where the council of any parish, or a neighbourhood forum, (“the relevant body”) in the area of the local planning authority have—

(a) requested the authority to notify it of a proposed entry of land in Part 2, and

(b) the land to which the proposed entry relates is within the area of the relevant body, the local planning authority must notify the relevant body of the proposed entry by serving requisite notice on it”

The driving force on compiling this Register, expected complete by the End of 2017, appears left to councillors with leading officers now having taken consultation only positions.

It appears that the first point of debate should be, but will most likely be disregarded, what constitutes Brown field land.

If you were to simply swallow what some local protagonists claim, Green Belt is held akin to:

And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England’s mountain green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Rather than:  Green Belt serves five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

This is recognised by Chelmsford City Council;

In their Local Plan Preferred Options Document they state:

Green Belt  A national planning policy designation given to land. Green Belts were designated to stop the uncontrolled growth of large cities and towns.    The Green Belt can include both greenfield and brownfield sites in areas with both good and poor landscape value.”

Our local Castle Point councillors will do well, if they were indeed intending to work towards bringing forward a Local Plan rather than extending the process indefinitely, to first understand and absorb this definition.

Of course that may not be their most important driving force!

Government regulation and advice on the compiling of Registers of Brownfield Land includes:

The regulations require local authorities to prepare and maintain registers of brownfield land that is suitable for residential development. The Order provides that sites entered on Part 2 of the new brownfield registers will be granted permission in principle.

The proposals came in to force in mid April 2017. Local authorities will be expected to have compiled their registers by 31 December 2017.

The (Government) department’s rigorous new burdens assessments ensure local planning authorities receive the relevant resources to meet their statutory obligations. We have written to authorities informing them of the grant funding that they will receive to cover their new responsibilities.

We (the Government) intend to publish statutory guidance to explain our policy for brownfield registers in more detail by Summer 2017. It will also set out our expectations for the operation of the policy and the requirements of the secondary legislation.

Brownfield registers will provide up-to-date, publicly available information on brownfield land that is suitable for housing. This will improve the quality and consistency of data held by local planning authorities which will provide certainty for developers and communities, encouraging investment in local areas. Brownfield registers should include all brownfield sites that are suitable for housing development irrespective of their planning status.

Local planning authorities who are required to develop a Local Plan under Part 2 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 will be required to have a register covering the area of the local plan.

The regulations set a process for identifying suitable sites, including the requirements for keeping a register and the criteria for assessing sites. (The regulations also set out the requirements for publicity and consultation where an authority proposes to enter sites on Part 2 of the register.) There is a duty on local planning authorities to have regard to the development plan, national policy and advice and guidance when exercising their functions under the brownfield register regulations.

the timescale is realistic. Local authorities already collect and review information on housing land as part of the well established Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment process and the requirements for preparing registers are aligned to this process as far as possible. Seventy-three local planning authorities have piloted the preparation of brownfield registers and their experience has helped to shape the policy and requirements.

Putting a site on Part 1 of a register does not mean it will automatically be granted permission in principle. Local planning authorities will be able to enter sites on Part 2 of the register which will trigger a grant of permission in principle for those sites suitable for housing-led development only after they have followed the consultation and publicity requirements, and other procedures set out in the regulations and they remain of the opinion that permission in principle should be granted. Those sites which have permission in principle for housing-led development will be clearly identified by being in Part 2 of the register.

Where a site on a register is considered to be deliverable within 5 years it can be counted towards the 5-year housing supply. Local planning authorities will be required to indicate whether sites are ‘deliverable’ when entering data on their registers.

Local planning authorities must take into account the National Planning Policy Framework when identifying sites to include in their brownfield registers. The Framework has strong policies to protect the natural and built environment and conserve and enhance the historic environment. It also requires authorities to ensure that a residential use is appropriate for the location and that a site can be made suitable for its new use.

Brownfield registers complement the existing Local Plan processes for identifying sites that are suitable for housing. When preparing their plans, local planning authorities are required, through the preparation of Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments to identify housing sites on brownfield land and other land that is suitable for housing. The regulations ensure that the process of identifying suitable sites for the brownfield register is aligned to the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment process, and so proactively supports the plan-making process.

Permission in principle will settle the fundamental principles of development (use, location, amount of development) for the brownfield site giving developers/applicants more certainty.

Jotmans Farm High Court Appeal – NOT for Castle Point council to Defend?

Green Belt Campaigners, particularly those concerned for the future of Jotmans Farm, having been kept well and truly in the dark over the High Court challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision to oppose development of the area, should be concerned to note the apparent inactivity by Castle Point Borough Council.

big_mushroom_svg_thumb

Mushroom syndrome where you’re kept in the dark

The statement issued by CPBC as reported in the Echo Newspaper reads;

“As the appeal is actually against the decision of the Secretary of State, it is for the Secretary of State to defend.”

“The council is monitoring the situation, councillors have been kept informed..”

The second point made by CPBC and why it was felt it in-necessary to inform residents, we covered HERE.

If you have read the Post’s link and read the contents you will be aware that, in the case of the Glebelands High Court Appeal, Castle Point Council were named as Defendents!

So referring back to the cpbc statement in the Echo above, it may appear to be a remarkably un-reassuring and passive position for our Local Authority to assume!

After all, as recently as the 11th July of this year Essex County Council, to which Castle Point residents are represented Agreed the following Motion, passed with Unanimous Approval

Perhaps some clarity is deserved by Residents from our local councillors after reading the following, of which they will also be aware;

Planning and Infrastructure

At the July 2017 Essex County Council meeting, it was Agreed (with UNANIMOUS Cross-Party support) that;

Essex County Council will not support Local (Development) Plans unless adequate resources are identified from developers, local councils and/or Government grants to ensure that sufficient infrastructure, including roads, schools, medical facilities, parking, sewerage and drainage, is provided in a timely manner and in a way that balances the needs to promote economic growth and provide housing for residents whilst protecting their quality of life.

Given the significant housing development emerging from Local Development Plans, this Council reaffirms its commitment to this policy. This Council also expresses its concern that whilst Local Development Plans and Neighbourhood Plans are being progressed to decide where this housing should be best located, some developers are exploiting the lack of a 5 year housing supply to gain planning permission on greenfield sites, often outside the development boundary, even when these sites have been excluded from the draft local plan and in some cases where there are brownfield sites available or in the pipeline.

This Council therefore calls on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to issue urgent statutory guidance, which removes the opportunity for this exploitation and protects valued greenfield sites from predatory development.

Previously agreed at the October 2014 Full Council meeting.

It would appear negligent if legal representation was not made during the High Court Appeal by Castle Point Council to reiterate the County Council’s Policy on exploitation of Green Belt sites, especially those which will undoubtedly have a major impact upon road infrastructure, especially during the cpbc Local Plan process.

Castle Point Residents Ill-informed or Gullible? Green Belt Saved or still in Jeopardy?

Be In No Doubt Canvey Island residents stand to be affected by the development of Jotmans Farm, as much as the Jotmans Farm residents do themselves!

Once all phases of the Jotmans Farm proposal is completed there is a plan to construct a Roundabout to allow traffic from the 800 dwelling estate, onto Canvey Way!

sadlersjpeg

Not only that, but the much Heralded retail extension nearby Morrisons on Canvey Island with the promised Marks and Spencer / Waitrose food, B and M and Sports Direct outlets, will add more Motorists Misery, entering and leaving via the Waterside Farm Roundabout and the local areas!

Recently the Jotmans farm Green Belt campaigners have been left to “discover” that Persimmons have decided to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision in the High Court.

The Secretary of State’s decision, generally portrayed to Residents as being a signal that not only Jotmans Farm, but also Green Belt in General, was Saved from Development, was Released on the 21st April 2017.

And so we headed for the Polling Stations, on the 4th May for the Castle Point Borough Council Elections and the General Election on the 8th June.

Possibly, Unfortunately the Election Period of Purdah may play some legal significance.* See below.

Through an email released by the Jotmans Farm campaign group, we gather that they are being led to believe that none of the Lead Group of Castle Point councillors were aware, or felt it unimportant to make the information known to Residents, that High Court action threatened the Jotmans Farm Decision!

Castle Point Council are an “Interested Party” in the High Court action. One only has to refer to the Glebelands case to be aware that CPBC should be involved:

Case No: CO/10476/201

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

 Manchester Civil Justice Centre

Date: 17/01/2014

Before :

THE HON MR JUSTICE BLAKE

Between:

 

FOX LAND AND PROPERTY LIMITED

Claimant

 

– and –

 

 

SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

-and-

CASTLE POINT BOROUGH COUNCIL

 

 

 

Defendants

Would the Castle Point officers not have immediately informed the Lead councillors, could the councillors not have been Open and Transparent and informed their Residents, of the Legal move?

In the Echo newspaper it is reported that Jotmans farm residents clutch at the possibility that the Persimmon legal team, left it beyond the 6 weeks to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision. CPBC appear to leave this desperate hope hanging.

In our humble opinion we find it inconceivable, not only that the Persimmon legal team would be so inefficient, surely the challenge would have been dismissed should the 6 week time limit to challenge the decision have elapsed, but that some lead group Castle Point councillors to be unaware cpbc are an Interested Party in the High Court case!

CPBC are quoted in the Echo “As the Appeal is actually against the decision of the Secretary of State it is for the secretary of State to defend.” …..”councillors have been kept informed…”

We fear on behalf of Jotmans Farm and Canvey Island residents, on whom this development will impact upon, that the release date of the Secretary of State’s decision and the dates of the Local Elections may well have had some influence, as well as having some legal impact.

* “The term ‘purdah’ is in use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The terms ‘pre-election period’ and ‘period of sensitivity’ are also used.
The pre-election ‘purdah’ period before general elections is not regulated by statute, but governed by conventions based largely on the Civil Service Code.
The pre-election period for the 8 June General Election will start on midnight on Friday 21 April 2017.
A ministerial statement gave details of the different ‘purdah’ periods for the different elections on 5 May 2016: The period of sensitivity preceding the local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections starts on 14 April”
Source: House of Commons Library Published Friday, April 21, 2017

Defending Castle Point Green Belt, Nimbyism, or worthwhile protection of our Environment?

Encouragingly Castle Point council have again refused permission to develop another Green Belt site.

This time at Catherine Road, Benfleet, where a wooded site had been cleared prior to a proposal for 6 detached houses.

Castle Point, as many will be aware, are without a recognised required 5 Year Housing Supply. At the development committee meeting it was reiterated that the “emerging” local Plan, will include a 5 Year Housing Supply, albeit supported by previously developed Green Belt being released for development. The question of deliverability will be the issue scrutinised by developers and an Inspector.

However, apparently less encouragingly this very week the Telegraph newspaper published a controversial article adding even more pressure from the government on local authorities to supply even more homes than previously expected, in areas such as Castle Point.

pic2

The Telegraph article reads;

“Families living in some of the most sought-after parts of the country will be forced to accept more homes being built near them to tackle the housing crisis, the Communities Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid said that he wants communities which have benefited from soaring property prices to play their part in solving the housing crisis.

New rules to force councils to increase their housing targets will be published in the next three weeks.

Mr Javid’s comments could be seen as a new assault on homeowners with a Nimby” – “Not In My Back Yard” – attitude towards new development. It could also prove controversial with grassroots Tory voters, many of whom live in affluent areas.

But last week, Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, said the Conservative Party had to focus on building affordable homes and creating jobs for “young metropolitan” voters if it wants to expand its support base and win the next general election.

Mr Green suggested that the Conservatives’ defeat (sic) at the general election last month was in part because they had allowed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to seduce younger voters who have struggled to get onto the housing ladder.

Separately, ministers will say on Wednesday that towns and villages across England could get a share of £1billion a year to build bypasses and protect beauty spots from the “misery of lorries and thundering traffic”.

Mr Javid used a speech to council leaders to set out the Government’s plans to deal with the housing crisis and have “a much more frank, open discussion with local residents and communities” about housing.

 

This means wealthy communities living in areas “where housing is particularly unaffordable” have to accept that more homes needed to be built nearby.

He told council leaders at the Local Government Association’s annual conference: “Nothing is more corrosive to trust than the idea that some areas are being treated better than others.

“Where housing is particularly unaffordable, local leaders need to take a long, hard, honest look to see if they are planning for the right number of homes.

 One source at the department said part of the problem was that “you see more active groups locally contesting against decisions” in wealthy areas.

It comes six years after the Government clashed with rural campaigners over plans to make it easier to build on green belt land by relaxing planning laws in favour of developers.

Mr Javid directly criticised Theresa May, the Prime Minister, along with her predecessors in Downing Street, for not doing more to provide enough homes for young families.

He said: “Since the 1970s – under Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and now May – we’ve supplied an average of 160,000 new homes each year. That’s far below what’s needed.”

A new Government consultation paper published this month will provide a “new way for councils to assess their local housing requirements”, Mr Javid said.

 

Councils are expected to be asked to commission an assessment of how much and what kind of housing is needed in their area. Councils will then use it to inform the housing target in the local plan which sets out where new homes can be built. The target will be reassessed every five years.

 

The new way of calculating housing need is expected to result in increases of up to 25 per cent in housing forecasts in the Home Counties, campaigners fear.

Mr Javid said: “Our aim is simple: to ensure these plans begin life as they should, with an honest, objective assessment of how much housing is required.

“That means a much more frank, open discussion with local residents and communities.”

The new initiative for more homes would involve “courage to both conceive and execute”, he said: “There will be tough decisions, difficult conversations. But that is what political leadership is about.”

Mr Javid said ministers would ensure that the extra schools, roads and doctors’ surgeries for the new homes would be built.

A spokesman for Mr Javid’s department said: “We want to make sure that local plans are based on an honest assessment of the need for new homes in local authority areas, and are formed in a transparent way that gives communities a strong voice to shape their area.”

Article by Christopher Hope,

Photograph, illustrative purposes only.

A Tactical Withdrawal, temporary Reprieve? What is going on at Castle Point Council and its Local Plan?

In a letter from Castle Point Council, dated 31st May 2017, we learn of the latest developments in the Persimmons proposal to develop the Dutch Village Green Belt;

Dear Sir/Madam

 

Proposal: Erect up to 275 new homes and retail/community facilities (use classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, C2 and/or D1) with new roundabout junction onto A130 Canvey Road, associated parking, open space, ecological enhancements, landscaping, drainage and flood mitigation measures (outline)
Location: Land To The East Of Canvey Road Canvey Island Essex

 

I refer to my consultation letter in respect of the above application and write to advise you that the application has been withdrawn and the Council will not therefore take any further action in the matter.

 

I thank you for your interest in the proposal and I will ensure that you are consulted again if a further application is submitted in the future.

 

Yours faithfully,

S Rogers

Head of Regeneration & Neighbourhoods

Fair Play for Canvey Island in the light of the Jotmans Decision or are we still a “Special Case”?

And the Necessity for Castle Point Borough Council to produce a Local Plan is?

“National planning policy places Local Plans at the heart of the planning system,”

Even so, the National Planning Policy Framework states as early as Paragraph 14;

“Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless:

– any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole;

or– specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted. 9

Paragraph 14, Footnote 9 Reads; “For example, those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park (or the Broads Authority); designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.”

“so it is essential that they are in place and kept up to date. Local Plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of the area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design.”

The Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss the Jotmans Farm Appeal in the light of the Inspector’s recommendation, raises some questions.

Is the Planning Inspectorate’s reading of the NPPF and Guidance similar to that of the Government’s?

There was agreement between the SoS and the Inspector that, Castle Point Council are only able to identify 0.4 years worth of the required 5 Year deliverable Housing Supply, this is an even worse supply than in 2013 when the SoS considered cpbc had a realistic housing supply of just 0.7 years!

In the case of the Glebelands 2013 Inquiry the SoS used a “totting-up” method of measuring harm to the Green Belt;

“the Secretary of State has identified moderate harm in respect of urban sprawl, moderate harm in respect of the merging of neighbouring settlements, and moderate harm to the visual appearance of this part of the GB.  The Secretary of State considers that together this represents a considerable level of harm. ”

” He also wishes to emphasise that national policy is very clear that GB reviews should be undertaken as part of the Local Plan process.”

So we appear to be in a situation where, as long as Castle Point council are in an apparent perpetual process of Local Plan making, the whole of the local Green Belt can be considered safe from development!

Residents should now be looking for a new, up to date cpbc Green Belt Review, based on the SoS’ guidance and embracing the protection afforded by Footnote 9 of the NPPF.

As was pointed out earlier in this post;

“Local Plans should meet objectively assessed needs, … unless: – ….  specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted – For example, those policies relating to …. land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, … and locations at risk of flooding.”

This appears to be the clear desire of the Secretary of State’s interpretation of planning direction. The archived cpbc Green Belt Review was dated 2013 and produced in-house in support of the rejected daft New Local Plan, and clearly out of line with the Secretary of State’s consideration of  levels of “harm.” A new GB Review should be commissioned urgently, indicating the protection available through NPPF Policies and Guidance!

It would appear that the Castle Point council’s Local Plan2016, despite their failure to comply with the Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring local authorities, may have been more in tune with the Secretary of State’s interpretation of what is possible with Local Plan-making and stood a chance of being considered adoptable. Whilst an Inspector may feel the Local Plan2016 was worthy of withdrawal, seeking intervention via the Secretary of State, may supply a different decision, once the Duty to Cooperate has been complied.

More importantly, with Canvey Island in mind, is that NPPF Footnote 9 offers no  difference in the weight and importance that should be applied when considering whether a site is appropriate for development between that of Green Belt or Flood Risk!

Only in the minds of those in Control of Decision-making within Castle Point council, is Canvey Island deemed a “special case”!

If not now, then I do not know when, given the position of the cpbc Local Plan, and the direction given by the SoS, it would be more Timely and more Appropriate for Canvey Island Town Council to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan!

The Secretary of State is clear Footnote 9 should be applied to protect Green Belt from Harm.

It is obvious that an area within a Flood Risk Zone and with unresolved Surface Water Flooding issues, can expect that same level of protection using Neighbourhood Plan Policies under-pinned by that same Footnote 9!

Quite simply Canvey Island is thought to be unlikely to Flood. This is supported by no factual Evidence, simply that it is “unlikely”. The continual loss of Green Space to development on Canvey that serves as potential displacement for flood water, fails to register any concern to the planning decision makers!

The FloodRe insurance scheme is limited, limited so that it specifically discourages development in Flood Risk areas.

The list of properties excluded from the remit of Flood Re has been subject to significant debate however it has been agreed that the following properties will not be covered:

  • All commercial property
  • All residential property constructed since 1 January 2009
  • All purpose-built apartment blocks

Who will weigh this against Financial Sustainability? It appears nobody at Castle Point council!

It is time for the reservations contained within the NPPF Footnote 9 to be considered appropriately and evenly across the whole of Castle Point!

” ” All quotations lifted from the NPPF, Planning Guidance, Glebelands Inquiry and the Jotmans Farm Inquiry.

“Smoke Filled Rooms, Dodgy Housing Site Selection Processes and Failed Local Plans,” sound Familiar?

Yet another Local Plan is halted in its Tracks. In an Inspector’s Note, reminiscent of that sent to Castle Point Council during 2011 when Mr P.Crysell stated, amongst other concerns; 

“I consider there remain serious shortcomings in the (CPBC) Council’s Plan.” “These are firstly, the approach in relation to the Green Belt; secondly, the consequences of this on the distribution of growth across the Borough”

“I have reservations about the methodology employed and the way in which it appears to have been used, leading to inconsistent and inappropriate site selection.  For example, the Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal is unclear as to why the most sustainable Green Belt site was discounted.”

“I consider it would be difficult to endorse a strategy which commits to Green Belt release in an area of potential high flood risk at Canvey Island yet fails to identify more than a token amount of land on the mainland where flooding is not a significant issue.”

The Shropshire Star commented of the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan;

“It is pretty clear that a ‘smoke filled’ room process occurred behind closed doors with Cllrs where political rather than policy issues dominated – something the post 2004 Act changes was designed to eliminate.”  Shropshire Star

Evidence had emerged of a similar smoke filled room meeting in the CPBC Lead Group rooms, during which Canvey Island Green Belt was sacrificed so as to progress a Core Strategy document bent on protecting mainland Green Belt at all costs!

Of the Telford and Wrekin Local Plan the Inspector commented;

Housing Site Selection Methodology

 7. You will recall the concerns that I raised at the Matter 8 hearing session in respect of this matter.  While I accept the need for a Plan’s evidence base to be proportionate, it is also the case that all parties need to understand why certain sites were allocated and why other sites were not allocated.

 8. In that context, I sought to examine the methodology that the Council has employed in selecting the 17 housing sites proposed for allocation in the Plan.  Unfortunately, the commentary set out in the Council’s (pre-hearing) written answer to my question in respect of this matter2 and in section 5 of the Housing Delivery Technical Paper3 contain only a brief summary of that process.  Indeed, the latter document states (para 5.6) that ‘the site selection or rejection reasons for each individual site can be found in the Integrated (Sustainability) Appraisal Report (2015)’ (the IA).

 9. However, Appendix X of the Integrated (Sustainability) Appraisal Report4 comments that ‘the IA findings are not the sole basis for a decision; other factors including planning and deliverability, play a key role in the decision-making process’.  Bearing in mind the position set out in Housing Technical Paper as described above, this suggests to me an element of circular reasoning.  

 10. Clearly, the detailed selection of sites for allocation involves an element of planning judgement.  However, that judgment needs to be both explicit and transparent.  In short, there needs to be a clear ‘audit trail’ that shows how the final decisions were arrived at, and what factors were taken into account in making such decisions.

 11. In response to my questions along those lines at the Matter 8 Hearing session, your officers offered to table working spreadsheets that would give more information about how the Council reached its decisions in this regard.  I accepted that suggestion and allowed other parties the opportunity to make representations accordingly.  However, the document that was subsequently produced5 was not the working spreadsheet that had originally been offered.  Instead it represents a commentary, apparently prepared after the event, that seeks to apply planning considerations to some (but not all) of the sites that were considered at the ‘strategic fit’ stage of the site assessment process.  I have now been advised that the Council is unable to find the spreadsheets that were apparently referred to at the hearing session.

12. The evidence that has been submitted since the hearing session is inadequate for several reasons.  First, it does not represent the actual selection exercise, as it was prepared after the event.  Second, comments are only given on a number of some 315 sites considered at the ‘strategic fit’ stage of the assessment.  Over 200 sites are missing.  This represents a substantial gap in the evidence base.  While the Council comments that the sites listed are only those that scored 5 or above in that exercise, it is clear that some sites with a lower score were also assessed – and indeed subsequently allocated in the Local Plan.  Clearly, an additional sieving exercise had taken place prior to the one that is presented in the new evidence.  Third, it is clear from the comments made in this document that a number of sites that scored highly against the ‘strategic fit’ criteria were then discounted on the basis of their existing use.  It is unclear why these were not screened out at the earlier site assessment stage, at which the site’s development potential was considered in terms of various factors – including use.

 13. I note the Council’s responses to the specific comments made by representors in respect of this additional evidence7.  For the avoidance of doubt, the present note does not seek to comment on the detailed scores that have been assigned to specific sites in the IA.  However, I share a general concern raised by some parties in respect of strategic fit criterion 2 (promoting sustainable urban extensions) that it is not immediately clear why some large sites (notably those that have been allocated) were given a positive score in respect of that criterion while other large sites – also adjoining the urban area – were deemed to not comprise a sustainable urban extension.

16. Drawing these matters together, and noting that some further comments are yet to be submitted by the Council, it appears likely that I will reach a finding that the housing site selection exercise underpinning the Local Plan is flawed.  Such a finding would call into question my ability to reach a finding of soundness on a Local Plan containing these site allocations.

13 years on from the 2004 Act, that the Shropshire Star referred to, appears to have resulted in very little impact!